All posts tagged 9/11


Reflections on 9/11, Part 1: Solidarity

This post is made up of a a few reflections that eventually became part of a teaching I did on the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.


During the months and years following September 11, 2001, one of the more prominent sentiments was a kind of national solidarity.  Our common sense of injury and offense bound us together as Americans.  “We” had been attacked and “we” would respond, “we” would recover and “we” would remember together. We had good reason to lock arms with American neighbors of every stripe and consider more deeply the brotherhood of US citizenship.  But reflection on the event also provides entry to a broader form of solidarity. On Sept 11 2001, we had a stark and tragic look what it is like to live somewhere like Bosnia, Northern Uganda or any number of places where events of quite similar offense and terror are more regular features of life.

We did suffer a terrible and reprehensible act of violence. Similarly, Bosnians suffered the a reprehensible act of violence when nearly 30,000 Muslim brethren were exterminated in 1995.  We were made to feel vulnerable and unsafe, just as Rwandans in 1994 suffered the slaughter of over 800,000 fellow Rwandans (nearly 20% of their population), many of them children, in less than 100 days.  I do not at all mean to lessen our own national tragedy.  I only want to set in the context of others in the hope that, as we reflect this weekend, we might allow our injury and offense to move us past nationalism to a wider value of human life.

While the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is certainly a time to reflect on what it means to be an American and therefore a member of the American family; it can, and perhaps ought to, also be a time to reflect on what it means to be a human; to share the same fears, hopes and needs and fragility as every other blessed soul on the planet.  To put a finer point on it: allowing our reflection on this great tragedy to end only in a deeper sense of national pride and ownership will not be a mistake.. but it will be sadly short-sighted.


The Death of Osama Bin Laden

I cannot possibly imagine the kind of catharsis Bin Laden’s death brings about for those who lost loved ones either on Sept 11, 2001 or during the subsequent military actions.  I don’t at all blame some among us from feeling some sense of release.  Were I among that number, I too would feel a great sense of relief today.

And yet, the christian narrative is one in which we await and long for the complete restoration/reconciliation of all things to God. Any other “solution” to brokenness is second best and a form of brokenness itself.

Bin Ladin’s death is one more death in a long chain of violence that began long before his birth and will continue long after his death.  I hardly expect anyone in my social setting to sincerely lament his passing. I do not. But celebrating his death (or any death, really) is revealing of a profound misunderstanding of the nature of war, the nature of evil, the nature of violence, the nature of death and, I believe, the heart of God.

Nothing has been won.
It is only another loss that can, for now, help some of us to feel better about the losses closer to us.
But that’s not a victory. It’s a compromise.

Death ought always be greeted with a sense of sobriety.  Because, though it may feel good (and that is fully understandable) death does not heal. Death does not solve.  Death does not fix. Every death is a reminder of brokenness.  As a christian, I must hope for and celebrate something better than this.